Radley Metzger's turning point from softcore to hardcore, or rather from The Lickerish Quartet to The Opening of Misty Beethoven, unveiled with blasé elegance. A fairytale, shot in some faux-Riviera but set "deep within the erogenous zone," a score kept on the libidinous conquests of a cheerily decadent couple (Gerald Grand and Claire Wilbur) -- their latest guests are Calvin Culver and Lynn Lowry, comparatively square but more than game when the dress-up kicks off, nun habits, sailor suits and cowboy hats pulled out of a trunk. Jerry Douglas' play provides the svelte Albee spoof, good-humored porn dialogue to perk the innocents, even if these "innocents" are the star of boy-boy fuck classic Boys in the Sand and a future leading lady for Romero and Cronenberg. Not that Metzger's sexually omnivorous gaze needs extra help: a lacy black bra discarded over a statue points to Cocteau, flesh heated from limb to limb, hunky handyman Carl Parker caressing Wilbur's tits with his bare foot before whacking away on top of her. Flustered Lowry can only snap a photo amid the afternoon delight, so there's trouble in paradise -- namely, Culver leaping from bed to rub one out in the sink before the day has begun. Lava-lamp décor, amyl nitrate, stag-loops projected onto snug crotches, and mirrors everywhere: all anticipation, of course, to the extended centerpiece of "Operation Music Box," a virtuoso sleepover, the gals upstairs and the fellas downstairs. An exercise in crosscutting acuity, but Metzger keeps technique at the service of the lush trysts, fish-eye lens for Wilbur-Lynn strap-on action or a camera positioned between Grand's ass cheeks as Culver opens wide. Morning light brings the possibility of a full-on group-grope to illustrate Wilbur's tenet ("First you don't know... then you can't tell... then you don't care"), but Lowry and Culver do care, for their feelings, like their appetites, can swing both ways. So they fly the coop, Parker in tow, while the worldly ones are already eyeing their next conquest -- both sides, in Metzger's utopian XXX-view, movingly free of guilt and shame.
--- Fernando F. Croce